Man accused of terrorism requests trial by Quran

Accused of plotting a terrorist attack, Esseghaier has bizarrely demanded a trial by Quran, instead of the Canadian justice system. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2013 ― Chiheb Esseghaier is a Tunisian national accused of plotting an attack on the Canadian passenger train on route to Toronto. Arrested by Royal Canadian Mount Police anti-terrorism agents, Esseghaier has refused to consider himself subject to Canadian law, bizarrely demanding to be tried only according to the principles of the Quran and not by any man made code.

Logically, the Canadian justice system has ignored his demands, and Esseghaier is sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial.

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Esseghaier’s demand for a trial by Quran presents an ideological problem, not for Canada, but for Esseghaier himself. A thorough review of Islam’s holy text shows that, especially in these types of cases, there is no suggestion in the Quran that “man made” justice systems should be ignored. That he requested this sort of trial, in the face of significant evidence against him, has many Muslims scratching their heads.

An important teaching in the Quran is the prohibition on lying and the requirement to obey the precepts of justice.

“Oh you who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it is against the rich or the poor: God is nearer to them in compassion. Do not follow your lowest desires, or you may become a deviant, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do.” (Chapter 4, Verse 135).

According to UMAA Advocacy, one of America’s largest Shia Muslim advocacy organizations, groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Al-Nusrat Front intentionally misinterpret certain parts of Quran in order to pursue a violent agenda. However, verses such as the one above leave little room for interpretation. Terrorists and other criminals must clearly confess their activities and must identify other perpetrators of crimes, regardless of other factors. Declining to admit complicity in crimes is worthy, in Islamic belief, of divine rebuke.

SEE RELATED: Is Sharia law infringing upon our American rights?

Much has been made of Quranic verses seemingly in favor of violence; however, experts indicate that it is paradoxically only terrorists such as Osama bin Laden and ultra-conservatives who maintain such interpretations of the text. Often times such interpretations rely upon out of context quotes. On the other hand, Islamic scholars insist that the Quran be taken as a whole, pointing to the following verse:

“Whoever slays a person, unless it be for murder or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all mankind; and whoever saves a life, it is as though he has saved the life of all mankind” (Chapter 5, Verse 32)

Here, there is little room for interpretation, as the verse clearly states that a single murder is literally equivalent to genocide of the entire human race. In the case of Esseghaier, if he is convicted of being responsible for killing even a single person, the Quran would merit him the punishment ascribed to perpetrators of genocide.

Many Muslims regard Esseghaier’s demand for a trial by Quran as insulting, stating that the idea that a holy book would protect criminal or terrorist behavior is incomprehensible. It is unclear why Esseghaier made the demand in the first place, although popular theories include the notion that Esseghaier mistakenly believes that he would be exonerated. If however, he is guilty of the accused terrorist plot, the Quran is of no help to his efforts. The Quran decries murder in explicit terms:

“Have you slain an innocent soul who has not killed any man? Verily you have done a horrible thing.” (Chapter 18, Verse 74)

Expounding further on the treatment of those who engage in criminal enterprise, Islam’s holy text minces few words. The following verse depicts the religion’s viewpoint on the differences between peace abiding citizens and terrorists.

“Shall We treat those who believe and do good works the same as those who spread mischief in the earth; Shall We treat the pious in the same way as the wicked?” (Chapter 38, Verse 28)

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Rahat Husain

Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues.


In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.


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